Guide: 5 New-Gen Hawkers Reinventing Local Food

Guide: 5 New-Gen Hawkers Reinventing Local Food

Young hawkerpreneurs are preserving Singapore and their family’s culinary legacy with modern takes on local fare.

1. Gubak Kia 

Beef short rib kway teow. Photo: Gubak Kia 

Simply taking over Empress Place Beef Kway Teow wasn’t enough for John Paul Lim, the aforementioned Gubak Kia (beef boy). Despite the lack of formal culinary training, John spent much of his childhood helping out at his father’s store at Siglap. Little did father David Lim know that this would spur him into a culinary career that included Camp Kilo Charcoal Club and Wolf Burgers. Today, the young hawker combines his western training with his father’s recipes for a menu of Empress Place Beef Kway Teow’s kway teow bowls ($7.90) as well as his modern takes of Beef Short Rib Kway Teow ($12.90/300g or $14.90/400g) and New-Rou Mian ($9.90), a mazesoba-inspired dry version that does extraordinarily well with ample lashings of their unique pineapple-infused chili sauce. The sides are no less impressive. There’s also the Gubak Bao ($5.90/two pieces) that’s stuffed with a moreish combination of beef brisket, pickled veggies and achar. 

Facebook: @gubakkia

Address: 27B, Timbre+, 73 Ayer Rajah Crescent, Singapore 139957. 

Tel: +65 8782 0936

Mondays to Fridays | 11AM-10PM

Saturdays | 5PM-10PM

2. A Noodle Story

Signature noodles. Photo: A Noodle Story 

The humble wonton noodle got an upgrade, courtesy of new-gen hawkers Gwern Khoo and Ben Tham. As alumnis of Iggy’s, Waku Ghin and St. Pierre, their “Singapore-style ramen” do not disappoint. Al dente mee kia are expertly tossed in sweet chilli oil and piled with fatty chashu, potato prawn, hot spring egg and - the piece de resistance - plump Hong Kong-style wontons (from $8-$11) - a Singapore version of Japan’s mazesoba, if you may. If the long lines aren’t enough to convince you, Singapore Michelin Bib Gourmand list has honoured them for four years running since 2016. Tip: Come early as they only serve approximately 200 bowls a day.

Facebook: @ANoodleStory

Address: #01-39, Amoy Street Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Road, Singapore 069111. 

Tel: +65 9027 6289

Mondays to Fridays | 11:15AM - 2:30PM | 5:30PM - 7:30PM

Saturdays | 10:30AM - 1:30PM

3. Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck & Kway Chap

Duck ramen and Kway chap. Photo: Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck & Kway Chap

Melvin Chew is doing more than continue his late father’s time-honoured recipe for Teochew-style braised duck and kway chap; he is bringing his homely dishes to the 21st century. On top of the usual fare kway chap fare, he has subtly jazzed up the menu. The braising sauce has gotten a flavoursome upgrade with additional ingredients, such as cognac, while the old school braised duck rice is replated as an Insta-worthy Braised Duck Bento ($6) with Japanese ramen-style lava egg and three balls of yam rice. The Duck Ramen ($5) is, perhaps, the most innovative; tender slices of Teochew-style braised duck are layered atop imported ramen noodles tossed in homemade chilli, dried shrimps and braising sauce. Don’t forget to get a serving of their piquant yet tangy homemade chilli sauce.

Facebook: @jinjiteochewbraisedduck

Address: #02-156, 335 Smith Street, Singapore 050335 

Tel: +65 9018 9052

Mondays to Thursdays | Saturdays to Sundays | 10AM - 7PM

4. Tang Kay Kee Fish Head Bee Hoon

Mixed mui fan. Photo: Tang Kay Kee Fish Head Bee Hoon

Fourth-generation hawkers Debbie and Karmen Tang are breathing new life into Hong Lim Food Centre’s favourite zi char store. Answering the demand for speedy lunches in the central business district, the siblings introduced their modern take on their great grandfather’s wok-hei-heavy classics on weekdays. Highlights include the Cai Po Fried Rice ($5.50), that gets an extra oomph of flavour from the sweet yet savoury preserved turnip, and the umami-laden Mixed Mui Fan ($5), a local dish of Cantonese origins. The latter features steamed rice doused in a silky gravy teeming with sliced fish and pork and comes topped with deep-fried enoki mushrooms for a much-needed crunch. Remember to save space for a side of crispy Prawn Paste Chicken ($10).

Instagram: @tangkaykee

Address: #01-70, 531A Upper Cross Street, Hong Lim Food Centre, Singapore 051531 

Tel: +65 8157 2641

Mondays to Fridays | 11AM - 2.30PM (lunch)

Tuesdays to Sundays | 4PM - 10PM (dinner)

5. Coffee Break

Black sesame toast matcha. Photo: Coffee Break 

Jack Sai and his two twin sisters, Faye and Anna, are third-generation hawker-preneurs changing the way Singaporeans are enjoying traditional “sock-brewed espresso”. The trio took over their grandfather’s kopi business, which started in 1925 at the now-defunct San Hai Hng Eating House, in 2009 and have garnered a legion of fans for marrying local kopi with trendy flavours commonplace in upscale cafes. Faye’s unique blend of Robusta and Arabica beans from Sumatra and East Africa can be enjoyed as a Butter Pecan Latte ($4.80), Sea Salt Mint Vanilla Milk ($4.80) or Pumpkin Spice Mocha ($4.80), to name a few. 

Website: www.hellocoffeebreak.com 

Address: #02-78, Amoy Street Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Road, Singapore 069111.

Mondays to Saturdays 7.30AM - 2.30PM

#01-28, 2 Science Park Drive Ascent, Singapore Science Park 1, Singapore 118222.

Mondays to Saturdays | 8AM - 4PM

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